Pennhurst State School and Hospital was an institution that harkened back to the dark days of the custodial warehouse model of "care" for the mentally handicapped. For nearly a century, people with mental disabilities were forced to live out their lives in the cruel, bleak confines of state institutions like Pennhurst - totally segregated from 'normal' society.  Like many similar institutions, Pennhurst gained a bad reputation for acts of abuse, neglect and general mistreatment of its residents.

Pennhurst is a place of historical significance not only because of its negative past - but also because it's where America's mentally handicapped finally found their voice and changed their own destiny. In 1977, Halderman v. Pennhurst went all the way to the US supreme court and resulted in de-institutionalization for the mentally handicapped on a national scale. Because of this, Pennhurst has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, and has spawned a rigorous preservation movement.

I discovered Pennhurst in 2007 and spent that winter documenting it. My primary goal was to create my short film Abuse and Neglect.  In preparation for my visits I would read from Roland Johnson's account of Pennhurst: Lost In a Desert World.  His words filled my head during my many quiet hours alone in the old, abandoned institution, and I have included excerpts of his writing among some of my photographs.  Enjoy!

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Bill Scandone10/20/2021
I worked at Pennhurst as an apprentice plumber in the mid to late 60s. The place was a horror show even then.